Echoes Between Us - McGarry, Katie

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In my early morning stupor, I stumble down the stairs and into the kitchen. I smile at the sight of my mother sitting at the window seat of the circular turret at the far side of the room.

Mom’s in her favorite white sundress, the one that has spaghetti straps and lace around the hem. The sunlight hits her straight, long blond hair in a way that makes her glow and she has this soft presence about her that warms my heart. It’s my mom, my best friend, and I know everything will be okay as long she’s in the world.

“Good morning,” I say.

At the sound of my voice, she turns her head in my direction and gives me one of her patented glorious smiles. Maybe she’s smiling because my hair is one big rat’s nest or because it’s August and I’m in winter Minnie Mouse pajamas, rocking them like I’m six instead of seventeen. Regardless, she’s happy to see me and that makes me elated.

“Morning.” My truck-driver father is elbow-deep in waffle batter and is completely unashamed that his black T-shirt and worn blue jeans have been bombed by flour.

No matter what Dad makes in the kitchen, he’ll be covered in it from head to toe. How he manages this, I’ll never know. But it’s an art form he excels at and I applaud him for the effort.

“How did you sleep?” he asks.

“Good.” I shuffle across the room and take a seat next to Mom. Still cuddly, I lean my head against her shoulder and the pillow behind her, and she laces her fingers with mine.

We reside on the second and third floors of this humongous three-story Victorian house my mother purchased with her minimal inheritance years ago. The first floor we rent out for additional income because living there would be creepy. Years ago, people died mysteriously on the first floor, and what eleven-year-old wants to sleep in a room where people died? But the great news is that dead people in houses make them cheap and this place was practically a steal.

With my enthusiastic but non-helpful help, Dad renovated our floors. He turned the third floor into two bedrooms and a bath, and the second floor into our living space and kitchen. Besides the half bath, closets and pantry, the second floor is wide open. Because Mom loved the color of a sky on a cloudless day, the walls are a sunshine blue with white trim.

Dad sings along with an eighties song that’s playing from the speakers mounted to the ceiling in the kitchen. His voice is gruff, rough and edgy, sort of like his appearance. Internally, I giggle with how dorky he is as he mock headbangs and acts as if he still has long black locks instead of a bald head. Dad’s not a great singer, and he’s definitely not a good dancer, but he is a good dad.

“How did you fall for him?” I whisper to Mom, even though I know the answer. There’s something comforting in having the same conversations with someone you love.

“The better question is how did your father fall for me?”

My parents are exact opposites. She’s delicate sunshine, and he’s a thunderstorm with his broad shoulders, bouncer-for-a-bar physique and black goatee. Mom’s poetry, art galleries, quiet days and poppy-seed muffins. Dad’s football on Sunday afternoons, poker on Mondays, and a few beers on his tab with friends on Fridays.

“He loves you,” I say. No one has ever loved anyone as much as Dad loves Mom. Even though he’s not particularly happy with her at the moment, the love is still there.

“He loves us,” she corrects.

I couldn’t agree with her more.

Dad remains focused